Book Club: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, chp 2

Cindy at Ordo Amoris is hosting a book club for Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen, Ph.D.  The following contains some of my thoughts on chapter two.

I know that defining terms is so important it’s become a cliche that bugs even me, but when I tried to explain the premise of this book to a friend, I found myself getting tripped up over the meaning  of “imagination” and how that relates to methods of education and child-rearing.  It does not seem as though Dr. Esolen is referring to an ability to play at knights and dragons or to dream up some creative painting or poetry, though perhaps that would be included, but he means the ability to reason and wonder and figure out and to do all of that independent of an outside entity dictating the “right” thoughts to the child.

The first method Esolen discusses of destroying a child’s imagination is to keep him indoors all the time.  I wonder if he is a reader of Charlotte Mason.  In his belief that, whether in country or city, children need to spend a great deal of time playing out of doors for their imaginations to flourish, Dr. Esolen is in agreement with Miss Mason.   I don’t fault him at all for this idea not being a new one to me, but I do wonder if I’ll tire of nodding my head in agreement since, if the table of contents is an accurate representation of what is to come, Miss Mason has already convinced me.  I am, however, enjoying Esolen’s style and it is good to shore up my convictions now and then.

The first reason outdoor play is beneficial is because of the sky.  The sky is full of interesting things which may cause children to think.  The vastness of the sky also inspires the contemplation of infinities; it causes children to see and care about something beyond manmade constructs.  It might make them feel something which used to inspire poets.

I laughed out loud when I read Esolen’s thoughts about the sky.   I’ve always been amazed by the shafts of light that pierce through holes in clouds.  Apart from my usual sky-gazing, I often wonder, “What would it look like if Jesus came now and split the sky?”  It seems these past few years I can’t pull my eyes back down for very long.  I find it distracting.  It must be genetic I think.  As the women in my family age, their ability to drive worsens because they are busy looking at pretty and interesting things along the way – most notably, the sky.  I don’t know why this wonder and delight to come to us even more as we age, but I’m glad it does; I’m glad it just keeps getting more interesting.

The second way being outdoors encourages imagination is that it brings children in contact with uncontrolled entities, parts of the universe that are still wild – birds, weather, the homeless for examples.  There is an order to these things, but it is not an order which has been imposed upon them; they do not help the machine run.  Out of doors, children might notice for themselves what things really are like.  They might notice their surroundings.

Thirdly, being outside, children might come to know themselves rather than believing what they are told about themselves.  Separated from the power of marketers and institutions, they may come to know who they are, what they can do, what they really need.  They may come to know that they are human.


13 thoughts on “Book Club: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, chp 2

  1. Dana says:

    Kudos for thinking about defining terms!

    I think that’s extremely important because it reduces confusion and establishes a foundation. I found myself looking at current dictionaries, as well as Webster’s 1828 version. It also ties in with the teaching of vocabulary, something which if overlooked then has detrimental effects on spiritual and physical development.

  2. Mystie says:

    Yes, good job bringing up what exactly we are talking of when we say “imagination.” I hadn’t actually thought that through specifically.

    Your last two paragraphs sum up the point perfectly.

  3. Debra says:

    I love your ‘uncontrolled entities’. His comments about zoos resonated with me. Yes, we do see exotic animals at the zoo, but they are no more wild than the cows on a farm and far less useful – and if we admire the exotic at the zoo, and ignore the commonplace wild things around us, is this really beneficial?
    Again, it does come back to CMs principle of learning about the principle of things in situ, rather than needing to find the exotic.

    • sara says:

      Yes, Debra, I agree. It seems like a lot of people, myself often included, don’t even notice the things around them everyday.

      I admit, however, to loving the zoo. We can buy a kind of membership where we live that allows us unlimited access for a year to two zoos, an aquarium and I can’t remember what else. We’ve only done it one year, but I think we’ll do it again when we can afford it because it is just a fun family outing. I don’t think it replaces the everyday enjoyment of one’s surroundings, it certainly isn’t a “must,” and it shouldn’t be another thing that keeps us running around and living in our cars, but it sure is exciting to ride a tram over an elephant.

  4. Julie says:

    Oooo, I’m curious about the book. I’m all over kids using their imaginations, and playing outside is required, even in our cold, damp climate. Boys especially need a big, big space to be loud and wiggly. Better than bouncing off the walls… or, worse, losing that energy that makes them bounce off the walls! Truly, though, they play very differently outside. It’s as if their personalities enlarge with the space.


  5. kimberlyloomis says:

    This sounds like a very intriguing read. Couldn’t agree more with being out of doors as being vital to the development of children (heck, all of us) in many ways. Making way for spontaneity, understanding our environment, and to play on/with/in the open canvas of nature are the best things we can encourage in our children. Although, you can bet your bottom I don’t encourage it when it’s bitter cold out there. Totally selfish, I know, but around thirty degrees is my limit for outdoor play. 😉

    • sara says:

      LOL. My limit is around 40 degrees, but my yard is so small that even on cold and wet days, I can send the kids out in the proper clothing (snowpants are awesome) and watch them from the back door. I imagine that as they get older and can be trusted with more independence, it’ll get even easier.

  6. Holly says:

    Gwarsh, Sara, you still be bloggin’?

    Yo’re talkin’ so high falutin’ I can scarce unnerstan ya.

    (Sorry it’s been so long! Life got hard, I lost a lot of blog links. Thanks for saying hello – it’s so nice to hear from you. You DO sound wonderful, and your writing is so good as well.)

    • sara says:

      Aww thanks, Holly. I just keep the blog going so I can participate in things like this book club and so that when I comment on a stranger’s blog they can come and get an idea who’s chucking tomatoes at ’em.

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